Hong Kong authorities and opposition representatives have reported the arrest of 53 opposition figures.
The 53, including district councillors have been accused of arranging primary elections to select candidates for last July's postponed elections.
Democratic Party Chairman, Lo Kin-hei, criticised the arrests. He said it was “reasonable and normal” for political parties and camps to hold a primary polls before an official election.
610,000 votes were cast in the primaries to select candidates.
In a statement, Carrie Lam, puppet leader of the Province, said that people attempting to get elected with the intention of opposing government policy could be subversive. Her position seemingly flies in the face of the UK/Chinese agreement on a 'one country, two system' principle under which Beijing undertook to maintain democracy in the Hong Kong and under which the British handed it over. The authorities have said they will not pursue people who voted in the elections, which may indicate that they actually considered doing so.
The arrests are the largest crackdown on Hong Kong's opposition since Beijing enacted the widely condemned National Security Law last June.
A spokesman for the Hong Kong police stated that 72 premises were searched and four companies, understood to be news outlets that had arranged hustings for the primary elections, served with warrants to ordering them "to make material available". He also stated that HK$1.6m (around £152,000) had been seized.
The United Kingdom and United States have condemned the arrests.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said:
The mass arrest of politicians and activists in Hong Kong is a grievous attack on Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms as protected under the Joint Declaration.
These arrests demonstrate that the Hong Kong and Chinese authorities deliberately misled the world about the true purpose of the National Security Law, which is being used to crush dissent and opposing political views.
The UK will not turn our backs on the people of Hong Kong and will continue to offer BNOs the right to live and work in the UK .